• Haley Gray & Salih Cevik • Knowledge is Power • September 2, 2021 •

Within the last six months, some politicians have proposed measures to “ban” critical race theory (CRT) from K-12 curricula. Critical race theory is not actually taught in K-12 schools. Neverthless, 28 states have already passed or are attempting to pass anti-CRT legislation.

What Critical Race Theory Really Is

Critical race theory is a framework through which racial oppression is analyzed. Widely introduced as a concept in post-undergraduate academia, it examines the way racism is maintained in society’s policies, literature, laws and institutions through unjust systems. Due to its theoretical nature, CRT is not something that is explicitly taught; it is a way of thinking that informs how subjects like history, literature and civics are studied.

How this Debate Against CRT Arose in the First Place

In July 2020, Christopher Rufo proposed promoting the term “critical race theory” among conservative groups as a concept created to shame white Americans and promote segregation. It did not take long for this false definition to circulate. In fact, by September of 2020, President Trump signed an executive order to end racial sensitivity training within federal agencies that address white privilege or critical race theory. Mr. Trump claimed that these terms have infiltrated the education system and encouraged “racist ideas” that “teach people to hate our country.” This comment from Mr. Trump paired with Rufo’s endorsement of CRT as a divisive ideology caused many individuals to fear critical race theory and spurred the anti-CRT drive currently facing our nation’s schools.

>Using the Partisanship Out of Civics Act as model legislation, along with anti-CRT guidebooks created by conservative parent and political groups, most anti-CRT legislation limits all classroom discussions of current events, race and racism. Additionally, anti-CRT legislation denies the existence of racial inequities that exist today and often condemns the use of helpful concepts, such as racial consciousness, bias, equity, inclusion, etc.

Anti-CRT bills promote a revisionist curriculum that de-emphasizes racial injustice and undermines the past and present experiences of individuals with marginalized identities. With these bills in place, students will not learn the content knowledge they need to critically analyze our society or learn how to act as empathetic leaders, advocates and allies. They will no longer learn key historical facts or patterns.

Due to these dire implications, teachers, parents, students and community members across the nation are speaking out to stop the anti-CRT drive. Students deserve to see themselves adequately represented within the curriculum and to critically think about and challenge the status quo. And above all, students deserve and can handle the truth.

We cannot allow anti-CRT legislation to silence and filter the thoughts of our youth. They must be given the opportunity to reckon with our past and confront our present so we can have the hope of building a better future.

[©2021, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the September 2, 2021, edition of Knowledge is Power by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]